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IN HIS new book on the American jail at Guantánamo Bay, Joseph Margulies recounts the story of a prisoner who told his interrogators of plans to use bacteriological weapons. The man named many others involved, and before long his interrogators had confessions from 35 further prisoners, “page upon page of chilling, meticulously detailed admissions”. The problem is that the prisoners he is writing about here were not suspected members of al-Qaeda, but American soldiers. The questioning took place 50 years ago and the interrogators were North Korean.
The confessions were false and had been extracted after the Americans were subjected to extreme psychological torture. Mr Margulies, a lawyer who has represented some of the men at Guantánamo, describes what happened in Korea to illustrate how, in its eagerness to prosecute the “war on terror”, the current American administration has borrowed from some of its most ruthless past enemies, abandoning practices that had allowed it for decades to take the high road in the conduct of war and international affairs.